Features May 2009 Issue

Earthdog, An Underground Dog Training Activity

As long as there have been farmers and hunters, there have been “earth dogs.” Hardy, scrappy little dogs helped hunters tree squirrels, run rabbits to ground, corner foxes in their dens, and clear vermin from dwellings. As often happens, humans found a way to create competitive games from dogs’ natural abilities. For terriers and Dachshunds, a sport is born. Earthdog! Get that rat! As early as 211 B.C., mention was made of tiny rough-coated dogs used to follow animals into their burrows. Later, in the 1576 book De Canibus Anglicis, by Johannes Caius, the use of terriers was described in detail. In 1935, after many years of friends gathering together to test their dogs’ capabilities against those of their friends’ dogs, the Dachshund Club started offering trials modeled after German training for fox and badger hunting. This included building underground tunnels up to 50 feet long, with twists and turns along the way that required dogs to make decisions about which way to go to find their quarry. And it’s dark down there! In 1941 the Sealyham Terrier Club issued the first “working certificate,” which outlined requirements for dogs to search out woodchucks. In 1971 the American Working Terrier Association (AWTA) started artificial den trials in the U.S. By 1994, the American Kennel Club had launched its Earthdog program.

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